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WCU alumni don’t wait until 60s to make planned gifts to help future students


Alumnus Michael McLamb, with spouse and alumna Kalen Quinn McLamb, recently made a planned gift to benefit the College of Business.

By Bill Studenc

Although most people delay creating a will until they are in their 60s, that’s not the case for a pair of Western Carolina University alumni who have recently made planned gifts that include WCU as a beneficiary of their estates.

Michael McLamb, 33, who earned a bachelor's degree in finance in 2012 and completed his master’s degree in business administration in 2016, both at WCU, made an estate gift in November that will provide financial support to the College of Business Excellence Endowment Fund.

Lenell Wyche, 54, who received her bachelor’s degree in environmental health in 1994 before switching career paths and earning a master’s degree in accountancy in 2011, both from WCU, made a planned gift in August creating a new endowed scholarship fund in the College of Business.

For McLamb, managing director of Pinnacle Enterprise Fund in Hickory, the decision to make a planned gift to WCU came after he and his wife reviewed their estate plan, charitable interests and financial priorities and then selected financial goals they wanted to accomplish in the near and long term.

“I have been lucky and recognize anything can happen in this world,” he said. “Should my time here come early, there is a respectable amount to support the College of Business Excellence Endowment. However, should I endure my actuarial table and remain productive for the next several decades – as intended – there will be a nice sum to allow students to pursue their interests and become the best they can be.”

The current estimated value of McLamb’s planned gift is $75,000, which could fluctuate depending upon market conditions. The gift was made in conjunction with his spouse, Kalen Quinn McLamb, a 2015 WCU graduate with a bachelor’s degree in inclusive education and a former teacher in the Asheville City School System who now works at Children’s Neuropathy Services in Hickory.

A member of the WCU Corporation for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Advisory Board and the WCU College of Business Advisory Council, McLamb said part of his decision to name his alma mater as a beneficiary of his estate was because he believes that state funding for public institutions of higher education has been lagging in recent years.

“By many measures, our quality of life has improved, such as increased life expectancy and access to information. Those improvements have not come without cost; income and wealth inequality are significant concerns. Housing and health care costs are big problems that continue to grow. Our world is growing bigger and is getting more competitive. We absolutely need an educated populace,” he said.

“My hope is that far into the future WCU will continue to offer an accessible high-quality education to deserving students and offer an abundance of opportunities to expand horizons. A student’s ability to travel to a conference or afford an unpaid internship should not be dependent upon one’s privileged access to private resources.”

McLamb said he selected the College of Business Excellence Endowment to benefit from his gift out of a desire to help students participate in valuable extracurricular activities while working toward their degrees. “I want students to be able to pursue their interests and have options and opportunities regardless of their financial means,” he said. “Designating resources to expose students to new experiences and expand their networks is a worthy use of resources.”

As a scholarship recipient during his time as a WCU student, McLamb said he feels a responsibility to help future students the way he was helped.

“I received three scholarships while at WCU. All were related to academic performance and student involvement. The scholarships allowed me to have a bit more flexibility to pursue areas of interest and allowed me to save a small amount of money,” he said. “Most importantly, receiving the scholarships helped me stand out against competition for employment opportunities at large firms at the earliest stage of my career.”


Alumna Lenell Wyche and her pup take a break while visiting residents in a local nursing home in Wilmington on Christmas Day.

The story is similar for Wyche, who also received scholarships and grants as a WCU student and wanted to offer the same type of assistance – especially to adult learners. After earning her bachelor's degree in environmental health, Wyche returned to WCU more than a decade later for her master’s degree in accountancy.

“The importance of a solid education is the motivating factor in my decision to leave a legacy to my alma mater. It is heartening to know that a deserving student will receive the help needed to secure their successful future long after I have graduated to my eternal reward,” she said. “I hope my gift will encourage other alumni and friends of WCU to share their resources with this outstanding institution to help shape the future of our community and world.”

A resident of Wilmington, Wyche is controller for Plum Laboratories. She formerly served as chief financial officer for MedTest Dx, finance manager for Medical Laboratory Solutions, finance officer and human resources manager for the town of Canton and chief financial officer for the Asheville Housing Authority.

“My accountancy degree from WCU has afforded me the opportunity for career growth that would not have been attainable without this education,” she said. “I wanted to establish a legacy gift to benefit future students. I hope my gift will open the door for any student who may otherwise find the cost of college to be a barrier to a quality education.”

Her planned gift of a minimum of $25,000 will create the Lenell Wyche Accountancy Scholarship for students in WCU’s master’s degree program in accountancy. Preference will be given to students from the Western North Carolina counties of Buncombe, Clay, Cherokee, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, Transylvania and Swain, with special consideration for students who are members of groups that are underrepresented at WCU, such as adult learners.

A.J. Grube, dean of the College of Business, called the two planned gifts “game-changers” for the college. “I couldn’t be more grateful for Michael’s recent gift to the College of Business Excellence Endowment, which will have a direct impact on our students. The Excellence Endowment funds out-of-the-classroom Business ReadyÒ student experiences such as academic competitions, conferences, study abroad and research,” Grube said.

“I’m also extremely grateful for the creation of the Lenell Wyche Scholarship. It’s truly wonderful to see one of our own alumna pay it forward by creating a scholarship for future generations of accountants. Thank you, Lenell Wyche.”

Both McLamb and Wyche said they encourage other WCU alumni, regardless of age, to develop their own estate plans and to include their alma mater as a beneficiary if possible.

“If you expect to have excess capital when your affairs need to be settled, consider designating a portion of that capital to allow WCU to continue its vision to break barriers to student access and opportunity far into the future,” McLamb said.

“To the extent you are able, please consider making a planned gift,” Wyche said. “For me, it is so rewarding to know my gift will help future generations obtain a quality education.”

WCU’s Division of Advancement has partnered with FreeWill to assist members of the university family in developing legally binding wills – and at no cost. FreeWill is a fully secure online-service that has helped more than half a million people create estate plans.

The process of using FreeWill to create an estate plan should take approximately 20 minutes. Members of the WCU community interested in taking advantage of the free service can do so at

For more information, contact the Division of Advancement at 828-227-7124.

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